Meet David: Jewish Community Fan of the Week

Have a suggestion for a Jewish Person of the Week? Email allisonf@gatherdc.org to nominate your friend. colleague, partner, or even yourself!

David Offit recently started working at The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington – after making appearances at Facebook, on the Hill, and in the campaign world. He dreams of the day when we can roam the Smithsonians and local book stores once again. But for now, will have to settle for FaceTime dates with friends, monument walks, virtual museum tours, and horseradish covered matzvah?! Get to know David.

david headshot

Allie: What brought you to the DC area?

David: I moved to DC in 2017 from NYC where I was working for Camp Ramah because I wanted to get involved in politics. I majored in America Studies in college and after the 2016 election, I felt like it was the right time for me to make a career shift towards politics. So I moved to DC without a job, friends, or anywhere to live. I started living with my aunt and uncle in Rockville while I interned for Senator Maggie Hassan. I was just so excited to be a part of the DC world.

Allie: Do you still work on the Hill?

David: No, after my Hill internship, I started working in Baltimore on the campaign of someone running for Maryland state senate. This experience helped me learn what it means to organize and what politics are all about.

david at white house

Allie: Did you live in Baltimore or DC during this time?

David: Sort of both. I was living in Dupont Circle, but also had free housing in Baltimore as part of the campaign. I worked seven days a week for the campaign, but would try to come back to DC for Shabbat. I’d go to Shir Delight at Adas Israel or do something to stay connected to DC’s Jewish community. Then, I’d go back to Baltimore on Saturday morning.

Allie: What motivated you to make that big schlep each week to celebrate Shabbat in DC?

David: Since I didn’t have any friends when I first came to DC, I would go to Sixth & I, Adas Israel, and Gather happy hours. Then, I had a coffee meeting with Jackie Zais and that sort of set the stage for my whole DC Jewish involvement. I’ve grown to really love DC’s Jewish community. People are so open to making friends, and I feel very connected to the local Jewish institutions that are doing great programming for young people.

Allie: Has being involved in Jewish community life always been important to you?

David: Yeah. I went to Jewish day school, in college was in a joint program with Columbia and the Jewish Theological Seminary, I was on my college’s Hillel board, and then worked in Jewish nonprofit world right after graduating. Actually, when I moved to DC, that was the first time I was living somewhere and not working for a Jewish organization or attending a Jewish school – so being connected became even more important than ever.

Allie: I hear you also had a stint working for Facebook. How did you wind up going from the political campaign world to Facebook?

David: I was working in Facebook’s public policy division and a lot of people in that division come from the political world. Specifically, I was part of the team that helps craft policies, resources, and partnerships to make sure Facebook is a safe place to be online. It was an amazing place to work, and I’m proud of the work Facebook does – despite all the controversy.

david facebook

Allie: You’re now at The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, right? What led you there?

David: Yup! I met with Federation’s CEO Gil Preuss and he was telling me about the great work they’re doing in Northern Virginia. According to a recent study,  NoVA is the largest segment of the Jewish community in the DMV by population – 41% of Jews in the DMV are in NoVA. So there is a lot Federation can be doing to invest in and bolster the Jewish community there. I was brought on to help work on that effort, in addition to a bunch of other things across Community and Leadership Development. I live in Arlington now, and that’s become my home and community. I care very deeply about growing it. I like working back in the Jewish world, I feel very much at home there.

Allie: Imagine that social distancing is over, the restaurants and museums are all open, and you have a totally free day! Walk me through your dream day in DC/NoVA.

David: It’s a pretty cliché day, but I still love playing DC tourist. It would start with coffee at Northside Social. Then, I’d take the Orange Line into DC and go to a Smithsonian. I love the Museum of American History, the African American History Museum, and the National Portrait Gallery. The history buff in me also highly recommends going to the National Archives – I don’t think there’s anything cooler than seeing the Constitution and the Declaration up close! Then, I’d go to my old stomping grounds in Dupont and spend too much money at Kramer Books. I would love to take a long walk from The Lincoln Memorial to the MLK Memorial to the FDR Memorial to the Jefferson Memorial. Especially in the spring, that walk is amazing and beautiful. If it’s a Monday night, I’d go with friends to Bier Baron for their free amateur stand-up comedy show, which is sometimes hilarious, sometimes terrible, and always entertaining.

Allie: What’s your favorite Passover food?

David: I’ve always hated horseradish, but five years ago, I decided to try horseradish and I’m obsessed with it. Both the white and purple kind. I could eat it on matzah all year.

Allie: What’s one thing you’re doing to stay mentally healthy during this time of coronavirus?

David: Lots of FaceTiming with friends! Even when we can’t see each other physically it’s still so important to maintain our social connections.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

David: They welcome new people into the community.

daivd and friends

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

 

 

Your 2020 Passover Playlist

 

passover

Tamar Messer “The Passover Haggadah” – Israel, 1961

Passover is almost here, beginning at sundown on Wednesday, April 8 and ending the evening of Thursday, April 16. However, this Passover is like no other Passover we have ever experienced in that we are quarantined in our homes so that the coronavirus can “pass over” our community until the pandemic is under control. Although this is a stressful time, it’s important to remember that a big Seder with family and friends doesn’t make Passover. What’s important is that it is a time to celebrate freedom and reflect on our roots, and remember and honor our ancestors who were once slaves to different “Pharaohs”. 

My Bubbie and Zaydie, for instance, were Holocaust survivors. Their survival story is one of starvation, escape, and hiding in the woods. There is so much pain and suffering our tribe has endured, but we survived through our ruach (spirit) and chutzpah (temerity). 

To honor all who came before us and celebrate the freedoms we enjoy today, I put together 10 songs to inspire your Passover holiday. After all, music and dancing are an essential part of the Passover story. For example, Miriam (Moses’ sister) led the Jewish women in a drum circle dance to celebrate the Israelites being saved from the Egyptian army. Spanish Rabbi of Middle Ages Ibn Ezra once said, “Bitter is wine, but it sweetens all bitterness.” Now, more than ever, it is time to drink “l’chayim” (to life) and dance in celebration of the Israelites who left Egypt, our ancestors who escaped other forms of slavery, and for the freedoms we enjoy today. Because although we are quarantined, we are still free! 

Here are some joyous songs to stream this Passover.

 

“Ghetto Gospel” by Tupac Shakur 

“If I upset you / don’t stress. Never forget, that God isn’t finished with me yet.” 

 

“Zion Train” by Bob Marley 

“Don’t gain the world and lose your soul. Wisdom is better than silver and gold.” 

 

“3 the Hard Way – To the 5 Boroughs” by Beastie Boys 

“Sneak between the sheets so hide the matzo / Holler back challah bread…next.” 

 

“Hold on We’re Going Home” by Drake 

“It’s hard to be on your own / Just hold on, we’re going home” 

 

“Ob (Water) by The Secret of Mana” 

“Water comes down, drop by drop, forming oceans and rivers” Mana explained the beautiful significance of this lyric to me. She said that inspiration comes down like droplets of rain, but it comes together to become an ocean. 

 

Special” by Quincy 

“You’re so special /

I just wanna get a hold on it / You’re so special /

And I ain’t gonna let you go” 

 

“Don’t Be Scared to Live Again” by The Weeknd 

 

“Sometimes it Snows in April” by Prince 

“Sometimes it snows in April / Sometimes I feel so bad, so bad /

Sometimes I wish life was never-ending / And all good things, they say, never last” 

 

“Superwoman” by Alicia Keys 

“I can fly / We can fly, ooh I am a Superwoman /

Yes I am, Yes she is / Even when I’m a mess / 

I still put on a vest / With an S on my chest /

Oh yes I’m a Superwoman” 

 

“Ya I Says” by Most Def 

“My Umi said shine your light on the world /

Shine your light for the world to see /

My Abi said shine your light on the world /

Shine your light for the world to see, my Umi says” 

 

P.S. As a trained modern dancer, I felt inclined to share a quick video of me dancing to the tunes of this playlist.


 

micheleAbout the Author: Michele Amira is a nice Jewish girl,  DC based journalist, spoken word artist, and vegan. When not writing, she might be found Israeli dancing,  listening to hip-hop, and enjoying a l’chaim (toast) with her favorite drink – margaritas on the rocks. 

 

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Keep Seder Simple: FAQs for Your Virtual Passover

passover faq

This year, Passover is bringing along with it an entirely new set of questions that extend far beyond the traditional four. For starters: How do I cook a seder meal for just one or two people? How do I host my own virtual seder? Can I get a Passover Haggadah for free? I’m sick of video chatting – can I just have a meaningful seder on my own? Where do I even begin?

Not to fret. Gather is here to answer your most pressing Passover-during-a-global-pandemic related questions and remind you to #KEEPSEDERSIMPLE this year. And, if you have major “screen fatigue” and don’t want to read this – here is a summary: Eat/drink the Passover symbols, tell the story, and ask questions. It truly doesn’t have to get any more complicated than that.

For more info, check out our 2020 Passover Guide.

Food and Drinks

seder plate

Q: What am I not allowed to eat/drink on Passover again? 

A: You can’t eat anything containing wheat, barley, rye, oats or spelt that has fermented and risen. Another word for this is “chametz” (ha-metz). Beyond bread, pasta, and Oreos, this includes most beers, bourbons, whiskeys, gins, and wheat-based vodkas. 

Q: What can I eat and drink?

A: Fruits, veggies, eggs, nuts, quinoa, some meat, fish, dairy, and – matzah! There is some debate about whether or not you can eat legumes, beans, peas, rice, millet, corn, and seeds. These foods are called “kitniyot” (kit-nee-oat) and some choose to abstain from them during Passover, some don’t. More on this here. For beverages, you can drink most wines, potato-based vodkas, rum, tequila, sodas (without corn syrup if you’re avoiding kitniyot), juices – and ALL forms of water. 

Q: How do I cook a seder meal for just myself or a few people?

A: Keep in mind that anything you make can be consumed for the entire eight days of Passover – so no need to skimp on portion sizes. Just pick a few dishes you really want to make, and make them as called for. Who doesn’t love having delicious leftovers for teleworking lunches and easy dinners? Here are some traditional seder recipes ideas to get you started and there are tons more here. If it will help to have a cooking buddy, set up a time to prep your meal while tele-connecting to a friend or relative who preps theirs.

#KeepSederSimple Tip: Don’t worry about making an elaborate four-course meal to recreate your Bubbie’s cooking, just pour some wine/grape juice and eat the symbols.

Q: Where can I find very simple versions of Passover recipes I can make?

A: Here are simple versions of charoset (note: replace wine with grape juice for alcohol-free version), horseradish, matzo ball soup, roasted tzimmies, brisket with Insta Pot, Potato Kugel, Potato Latkes, Quinoa Salad, Apple Cake, Brownies, and Caramel Chocolate Matzo Brittle. Boom – you got yourself a delicious and complete Passover meal!

Q: What is a seder plate and what goes on it?

A: This one minute video will show you. If you don’t feel like leaving this page:

  • Karpas (Parsley): It symbolizes the emerging of spring. Ashkenazi custom is to dip it in salt water and Sephardi custom is to dip it in vinegar.
  • Charoset (Sweet Fruit Paste): A mix of sweet fruits, honey, and nuts that symbolizes he mortar Israelites used to construct buildings for Pharaoh
  • Maror (Bitter Herb): Usually horseradish to illustrate the bitterness of slavery
  • Zeroa (Shankbone): Symbolizes the lamb that Jews sacrificed as the special Passover offering when the Temple stood in Jerusalem
  • Beitzah (Egg): Represents the cycle of life and hope for new beginning

Q: Have you seen the grocery store shelves lately?! What can I can substitute for the traditional seder plate staples?

A: Here’s some ideas: 

  • Karpas – Any vegetable like parsley, carrot sticks, celery or a piece of roasted potato 
  • Charoset – Any combo of sweet fruit, nuts, and honey or agave, even jam will do 
  • Maror – A bitter lettuce like romaine or mustard greens, hot peppers, fresh lemon or ginger
  • Zeroa – Roasted beet
  • Beitzah – Avocado pit

More info here.

Q: I don’t trust my cooking skills! Where can I order Passover foods from?

A: You can get delicious Passover food for take-out or delivery from local DMV restaurants and caterers like Balducci’s, Bread Furst, Char Bar, Equinox, Moti’s, Provisions, Shalom Kosher, Soupergirl, and Ridgewell’s. You can also head to Whole Foods, Harris Teeter, or Safeway to get some mixes, matzo, and other ingredients for a “semi-homemade” Passover meal.

#KeepSederSimple Tip: Make a matzah peanut butter & jelly sandwich or matzah pizza. Basically zero cooking skills required, and zero judgement.

Q: All of that seems expensive, how can I get some financial support to help me out?

A: Yes. OneTable is offering nourishment options to local restaurants and grocery stores for those hosting virtual Passover seders. Sign up to host here.

Q: How can I make traditional versions of Passover foods that are vegan, vegetarian, or gluten free?

A: Here are the 9 best vegan Passover recipes and here are gluten free recipes. Side note: You can also use a vegan themed Haggadah!

Q: Why does the seder include drinking four cups of wine?

A: The four cups of wine mark the four verbs God used to describe our liberation from Egypt: See Exodus 6:6-7: “I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments, and I will take you to Me for a people, and I will be to you a God.”

Q: I don’t drink alcohol, what can I use in place of the wine?

A: Try a non-alcoholic wine like Fre’s merlot or red blend. For kosher options – get some Martinelli sparkling grape juice, Kedem kosher grape juice, or the classic Welch’s. Honestly so delicious.

Hosting Seder

hosting zoom

Q: I’m thinking of hosting my own virtual seder this year, where do I begin?

A: Gather what you can find for a makeshift seder plate. Tell the Passover story (we recommend the first few chapters of Exodus, it’s a classic!). Ask some questions.

#KeepSederSimple Tip: Download a free Haggadah. Send the downloadable link to your friends/family who will be joining you for seder virtually, and have everyone take turns reading. 

Q: What Haggadah should I use?

A: Totally your call. There are a ton of options available for free download here. Some are shorter, some are longer, and some have fun themes like chocolate, earth justice, and comedy. If you’re feeling really ambitious and have some time on your hands – you can make your own! Just make sure to send whichever one you choose to the seder participants in advance.

Q: What platform should I use to host a virtual seder?

A: We vote for Zoom. There’s also Skype, Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting, Facebook Live (if you want to create a more open and public seder).

Q: How can I make my virtual seder fun and interactive?

A: Sing songs, do skits to tell the story, listen to music, play Passover charades, try a seder drinking game (e.g. take a sip anytime some says “Moses”), find the afikomen virtually by creating a “Where’s Waldo” type picture to share on the screen (instead of Waldo it’s a piece of matzo, get it?) – and the winner gets a gift card to a local restaurant, and/or email a few simple food or drink recipes in advance so you can “share” in them together.

#KeepSederSimple Tip: Or don’t. If seder comes and you’re feeling angry, tired, sad, hopeless, or any other perfectly okay human emotion to be feeling right now – give yourself permission to let go of our creative plans, and go back to the basics. Eat and drink the symbols. Tell the story. Ask questions.

Q: How can I make Passover more meaningful and relevant for myself and people attending?

A: Imagine you are leaving your own personal “Egypt.” Reflect on the areas of your life where you do not feel free and discuss how to find freedom. As a group, talk about your responsibility in supporting the freedom of others by asking meaningful questions, thinking about acts of service to do after the seder, read a relevant poem, or utilize social justice-themed readings over 4 cups of wine/grape juice. It’s also important to express gratitude for the freedoms we do have. Encourage participants to take a few moments to share what they’re grateful for, including one another. 

Q: I’m kind of tired of the whole virtual hangout thing. How can I have a meaningful Passover experience on my own at home – no technology involved. 

A: We totally get it. Check out this Solo Seder Guide for some ideas, print your own Haggadah or order one online, make a simple seder plate, drink wine or grape juice, and eat some matzah (preferably covered in chocolate). Voila! 

Attending Seder

wine cheers

Q: I don’t want to host. Where can I find some virtual seders to attend?

A: GatherDC’s Passover Guide has a list and OneTable has a bunch! Email info@gatherdc.org if you want some guidance on the different seder options and what might be the best fit for you.

Q: What’s a nice way I can express my gratitude to the seder host?

A: Send a thank you e-card. If they live locally, email them a gift card to a DMV-area restaurant or consider dropping off a kosher-for-Passover dish at their doorstep with a thank you note. If they are not local, ship them any of these thoughtful gifts

#KeepSederSimple Tip: Lend your skills to express gratitude. Tech savvy? Coordinate the Zoom link. Amateur comedian? Make people laugh at different points during seder that feel appropriate. Beautiful singer? Lead attendees in a Passover song.

Passover 101

seder 101

Q: Can you just give me a quick recap about what Passover is again and why we celebrate?

A: Thousands of years ago, our ancestors were enslaved in Egypt. Pharaoh Forced the Israelites into harsh labor and decreed that all Israelite boys be killed at birth. Because of the courage of midwives, mothers, sisters, and princesses, an Israelite boy named Moses was saved and he grew to protest the injustices all around him. God sought him out to deliver the people from slavery and lead them out to freedom. Through a series of plagues and miracles, the people left and began a new journey, one that we are still on today. 

#KeepSederSimple Tip: Watch The Rugrats Passover episode (season 3, episode 26).

Q: What are some traditional Passover customs?

A: One is to give up bread and other leavened products for eight days. This is in memory of the dough that didn’t have time to rise when the Israelites fled Egypt. We also celebrate with a seder on the first and/or second night, a meal full of ritual and conversation surrounding the themes of Passover. During the daytime at the beginning and end of the festival period, it’s customary to attend synagogue services and sing songs of joy.

Q: What are unique and alternative ways to celebrate?

A: As Jews moved and lived around the world, they developed all kinds of Passover seder rituals. For example, Jews from Persia lightly hit each other with scallions during the singing of Dayeinu to symbolize the slaves being whipped in Egypt. Jews from Syria take the matzah from the seder table and place it in a bag that they carry over their shoulders around the table while the leader asks, “What are you carrying, where are you coming from and where are you going?” Or our favorite, Jews from Hungary decorate their table with gold and silver jewelry to commemorate the precious metals the Egyptians gave the Israelites to hasten their exodus from Egypt. You can also theme your seder around topics like social change, LGBTQ history, feminism, etc. 

Q: Who is Elijah and why does he want to come over for seder?

A: Elijah was a prophet. Jewish tradition says he will announce the coming of the messiah, which many Jews interpret as a time of complete peace. We invite him to our seder as a way to express hope for a time when all humans will see the good in each other and strive to live as one.

Have more questions that we didn’t answer? Email them here.

10 Cool Gifts Inspired by the Passover Plagues

With Passover around the corner, you can almost hear the matzah cracking. A true Passover seder must include the recounting of the 10 plagues. In light of the darkness, we thought we’d share a list of 10 cool gifts inspired by the Passover plagues. These gifts are sure to let your people KNOW you love and care about them – even from afar.

Blood – Bloody Mary Carry on Cocktail Kit

bloody mary

When Pharaoh refused to liberate the Jews from Egypt, the waters turned into blood. When you were given a middle seat on a Spirit flight from DC to LA, you turn to blood. The Bloody Mary Cocktail Kit features a Bloody Mary mix, a bar spoon, rimming salt and 2 mini pickles. This kit won’t give you extra leg room, but it will help you get through the next 6.5 hours. 

Frogs – Zen Meditation Frog Stones

zen frogs

The second plague came to Egypt in the form of frogs. Frogs everywhere. It was a nightmare. Just like life can be a nightmare when every inch of you is covered in stress. Take a page out of these frog’s books and bring some zen to your life. These meditative sealed cement sculptures bring peace, humor, and the art of Zen to off-kilter spaces.

Bugs – Bug in the Code Beer Glasses

beer

 

Next up? Bugs. Bugs crawled forth from the dust to cover the land. Man and beast suffered untold misery from this terrible plague. What is worse than bugs all over your body? Bugs in your code. Each of these Bug in the Code Beer Glasses is printed with code that has an error in it— a gift any lovable computer nerd in your life will get a kick out of.

Wild Animals – Ankole Horn Tumblers 

Hordes of wild animals roving all over the country, and destroying everything in their path. Egypt was straight up literally where the wild things were. Paying homage to the 1963 classic Children’s Book, the Where the Wild Things Are Tote from Out of Print is an excellent gift. Each purchase helps to fund literacy programs and book donations to communities in need.

Pestilence – EONE Bradley Voyager Cobalt

When Pharaoh refused to comply, a terrible plague fell upon the livestock—horses, donkeys, camels, sheep, goats and cattle. When it comes to cattle, you can always find leather. One of our favorite leather pieces is the EONE Bradley Voyager Cobalt. The Bradley timepiece features raised markers that allow you to feel the time by touch. A perfect gift for trendsetters and the tech-inclined.

 BoilsPimple Popper 

Number six on the list will bring you back to your high school days. Boils burst forth upon man which was so painful and horrible that it must have struck the people of Egypt with horror and agony. For fans of Dr. Pimple Popper, they may have reacted differently. That’s what makes the Pimple Popping Toy the perfect gift for people who lose their heads for black heads. 

Hail and Fire – Storm Cloud 

Moses announced to the king that a hail-storm of unprecedented violence was to sweep the land. Could you imagine if you left your umbrella at home that day? The Storm Cloud is a nifty device that can predict when a storm is brewing. Special liquid inside the glass crystallizes in different patterns as the barometric pressure changes. 

LocustsDark Chocolate Crickets

There were swarms of locusts into Egypt, covering the sun, and devouring everything green that had escaped the hail and previous plagues. A cousin of the locust, the cricket, is actually jam packed with protein. Don Bugito has taken toasted farmed crickets, hand dipped them in bittersweet dark chocolate and topped them with sea salt. That leaves you with a delicious snack and a perfect gift for any adventurous eater. 

Darkness – Glow in the Dark Constellation Blanket

Then followed the ninth plague. For several days all of Egypt was enveloped in a thick and impenetrable veil of darkness which extinguished all lights kindled. When the darkness sets in on your couch, reach for the Glow in the Dark Constellation Blanket. Perfect for Astrology and Astronomy fans. 

Death of First Born – Death Wish Coffee K-Cups

We all know the deal with the 10th plague so I will skip straight to the gift. Death Wish Coffee packs a strong punch in each cup. Their coffee is made from only the highest quality USDA certified organic and Fair Trade beans to give you the best-tasting coffee from the best sources. Dubbed “the world’s strongest single serve coffee capsules” this will get their juices flowing faster than the Red Sea. 

For more gift-giving inspiration, visit IGiveCoolGifts.com and check us out on Instagram

 


blakeAbout the Author: Blake Band founded and runs I Give Cool Gifts, the ultimate destination for gift giving inspiration. A DC-area native and resident, Blake works for Streetsense, the marketing and design collective based in Bethesda. An avid photography and district explorer, Blake spends his time playing soccer and kicking back with his friends watching movies and sports.

 

 

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Waiting: The Band’s Visit and Life Right Now

“Once not long ago, a group of musicians came to Israel from Egypt. You probably didn’t hear about it. It wasn’t very important.” The opening line of the Tony Award-winning musical The Band’s Visit, serving as a tantalizing undersell of the beautiful story ready to unfold— a story reminiscent of life as we know it right now. 

For those who haven’t had the honor of experiencing this production, The Band’s Visit is just that. It is a  heart-achingly simple depiction of an Egyptian Ceremonial Police Orchestra becoming stranded for one night in a small town in the Negev desert. The locals take them in, show them hospitality, and then (spoiler alert), the next day the musicians leave as scheduled. 

Near the start of the show, we hear from the residents of that small town in a song called Waiting. The people of Bet Hatikva feel trapped by the the stagnant nature of their isolated, desert town. They have clearly accepted this as their way of life, and yet they cannot help but find themselves weary of it, too. Every day they interact with the same people, visit the same places— days blurring together over time. Of course, they can’t help but be wistful that one day there might just be something more— something different.

Does that sound a bit familiar these days? 

My friends, this is officially the song (and production) of our time. While the characters weren’t actively fending off a pandemic, it’s easy to hear some similarities in the humdrum of these Israeli’s passing the time, and us doing the same today. The lyric, “This sofa is a boat and I’m just drifting right along”, is a sentiment that we all relate to at some level. Waiting puts a melody to this madness. 

Later, Israeli Café owner Dina opens up to Egyptian Colonel Tewfiq in a song called Omar Sharif. This song is Dina’s way of showing this strange visitor that they have something in common— their affinity for the same Egyptian actor, Omar Sharif, and singer, Umm Kulthum. While simplistic on the surface, this song teaches us that we can learn to experience magic in the things we do at home. Dina enchants us with colorful imagery about how it feels to be engrossed in the work of this actor and singer; 

and the living room becomes a garden, and the TV set becomes a fountain…”. 

home

If we fully embrace the art that brings us together, everyday things have the potential to become extraordinary.

Throughout the production, the quiet lives of the Israelis compel them to grapple with some truly raw emotions. They have time and space for their minds to wander, which is far from easy. When the Israelis grew more comfortable with the musicians, they slowly began sharing their tales of loneliness, fear, love, and longing. They were amazed to learn that the Egyptians knew those feelings, too. They shouldered one another’s’ sorrows and joys, and suddenly, Bet Hatikva didn’t feel so small to anyone. 

With so much out of our control, it feels natural to focus inward — filling our space and time with the innermost wearings on our hearts, no matter how inconsequential they may seem. Some days that could simply feel like boredom or restlessness, and other days like worry or anxiety. What The Band’s Visit shows us is that we don’t have to feel these things alone. We make our small world a bit bigger by allowing ourselves to let others in (though not literally, of course). 

The Band’s Visit models how to practice vulnerability and care, and teaches us how much good it can do for ourselves and others. This production is far from flashy. If you’re not paying close attention, you might assume that nothing monumental really happens. But humanity exists in the details of this story. I say we give this a try. Then somehow, amidst the mundane nature of our day-by-day existence, we could see all the beauty that humanity has to offer. 

 


marleeAbout the author: Marlee Ribnick is a writer and communicator who will dive headfirst into challenging conversations. Passionate about political discourse, with experience driving change in the nonprofit sector, Marlee believes in the power of prose to shape the course of history. When she’s not fighting for the little guy, Marlee is rooting for the Missouri Tigers and volunteering as a nationally appointed consultant for Sigma Kappa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

When We’re Called – A Lesson from Leviticus

Friday, March 26 – Parshat Vayikra

This week, we begin a new book of the Torah, Leviticus. Leviticus is the book of the priests (the Levites, get it?) who served as officiants in the ancient Temple, offering sacrifices and such. 

While we’ve been swept up in the world of stories throughout Genesis and Exodus, Leviticus, although it does contain some fascinating narrative as well, reads much more like an instruction manual. See this from the first three lines:

God called to Moses and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, saying: Speak to the Israelite people, and say to them: When any of you presents an offering of cattle, they shall choose their offering from the herd or from the flock. If their offering is a burnt offering from the herd, they shall make that offering a male without blemish. They shall bring it to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, for acceptance on their behalf before the Lord.

Over the next several weeks, I aim to bring out the beauty (and horror) of Leviticus, but today, I just want to focus on one word, vayikra

Vayikra means “called.” It is the first word of Leviticus, “God called to Moses.” This is why the Hebrew name of the book is indeed called Vayikra

Lately, I’ve been thinking about what it is to have and respond to a calling. At different points in our lives, we experience a strong feeling that there’s something we really want or need to do. Sometimes, we’re immediately ready to meet that call and sometimes, we can be more reluctant, tired or afraid. 

The rabbis of yore were intrigued by the potential intricacies of responding to a calling and had a lot to say about how Moses responded to his. They read the very first part of Leviticus as Moses receiving yet another calling. 

Looking back at Moses’ entire trajectory through the lens of Leviticus, they said,

You find that when God was revealed to Moses from the midst of the burning bush, Moses hid his face from God as it is said, “And Moses hid his face…” (Exodus 3:6). Because of this, God said to him, “Come now and I will send you to Pharaoh” (Exodus 3:10). Rabbi  Eleazer said, what God really meant was, ‘If you will not deliver them, no one else will.”

At the Red Sea, Moses stood aside, and so God said to him, “Lift you up your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it,” (Exodus 14:15) as much as to say: “If you will not divide it, no one else will divide it.” At Mount Sinai, too, Moses stood aside and God said to him, “Come up unto the Lord, you” (Exodus 24:1) as if to say: “If you will not come up, no one else will come up.” 

And even here, in the Tent of Meeting, Moses still stood aside, so God said:“Until when will you keep yourself low? The hour waits but for you!” you have proof that this is so, for out of them all, the divine word called to none but Moses as it is written, “Vayikra el Moshe…” “God called to Moses” (Leviticus 1:1).

It might be hard to imagine such a figure like Moses shirking from his call at every step of the way, especially now, after he had been through so much with the Israelite people already, taking them out of Egypt and leading them through the desert. But we see that maybe this was his M/O throughout the Torah! Perhaps it was from humility or perhaps it was also because of deep insecurity, resentment or fear. All are fair possibilities. 

Inspired by this week’s Torah reading, the rabbis step in and imagine that God gets so frustrated with Moses waiting to lean in to his calling that God has to yell, “Hello?! What are you waiting for? I need you!

I think we all want to be genuinely needed like this. It can be really, really nice to know that there’s something about us that only we can provide. 

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said it beautifully,

“A person insists not only on being satisfied but also on being able to satisfy, on being a need and not only having needs. Personal needs come and go, but one anxiety remains: Am I needed? There is no person who has not been moved by that anxiety.”

Given the uncertain times we’re in, I think we can do a better job of telling people we know what they mean to us and why we need and love them. That can be our first task for the weekend. Reach out to people and say,

“Here’s what I appreciate about you and here’s how I benefit from knowing you and only you.” 

But, as I alluded to earlier, being needed can also be really hard. Now, it’s not that we should refrain from asking for help when we have to, but I think this text begs the question of what we can we do to support those who are called in all the important and difficult ways right now. Of course, that’s each of us in the roles we play be they as a family member, co-worker, supervisor, roommate, or friend. Many, including healthcare professionals, social workers, therapists, clergy, teachers, grocery store employees and more are working around the clock to meet the increasing demands of our time, some seriously risking their health in the process

There are various responses to this unfolding every day, including just saying “thank you so so much” to those we meet. I also want to refer you to GatherDC’s Coronavirus Coping Guide to check out some concrete ways you can help alleviate the struggles of people responding to calls for help day in and day out. If you are one of these people in any way, let us know what you need! 

Lastly, if we are learning anything from this awful virus, it’s that we are all inextricably linked to one another. We need others and they need us. Let’s remember to do what we can to respond to the many possibilities that are our own callings and make it possible, safe and life-affirming for others to respond to theirs. 

Be well, Be safe. Shabbat Shalom. 


ilana

About the author: Rabbi Ilana Zietman is GatherDC’s Community Rabbi. She loves meeting new people and creating real and meaningful connections with them. When Rabbi Ilana isn’t officially Gathering, she can be found cooking in her kitchen, practicing yoga, going on hikes, desperately searching for good pizza in DC (seriously, help her find some!) and watching a lot of tv.

 

 

 

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Bake Challah with Rabbi Ilana!

Rabbi Ilana is so excited to share her famous challah recipe with you (adapted from Modern Jewish Baker). Follow along, and then be sure to tag GatherDC in your final product on Facebook or Instagram. Happy baking and Shabbat Shalom!

 

 

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dry active yeast
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons + 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup lukewarm water 4 1/2-5 cups of unbleached bread flour
  • 1/2 tablespoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs

For the topping:

  • 1-2 egg yolks
  • Any toppings you want like sesame seeds, everything toppings, salt

Instructions:

  • In a small bowl, place the yeast, 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and lukewarm water. Stir gently. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes, until the mixture becomes foamy at the top.
  • In a large bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cups of flour, the salt, and 1/2 cup of sugar (plus two tablespoons of sugar if you want a sweeter challah). Add the yeast mixture and oil to flour. Mix thoroughly. Add another cup of flour and eggs and mix until smooth.
  • Add another 1 1/2-2 cups of flour and mix. Either remove the dough from the bowl and knead on a clean, floured surface of knead in the bowl itself. Add flour as needed, 5 minutes.
  • Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover with a bowl. Place in a warm spot, like over a warm oven and allow to rise for 3 hours. You can also cover the bowl with plastic wrap or tin foil and allow to rise overnight in the fridge.
  • Divide the dough in two and make two challahs (or rolls). Once you braid, place challahs on baking sheets lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees and allow challahs to rise for another hour on top of the oven.
  • Once the dough has doubled in size, beat an egg yolk and brush over challahs. Add toppings. Place baking sheets in the oven and bake for 24-26 minutes, or until golden brown.

Meet Shoshana: Jewish Bunny Lover of the Week!

Want to bring some much needed joy to a friend right now? Nominate them to be Jewish Person of the Week! Submit your nomination here.

This week, we introduce you to a bunny-loving mensch who graces us with tips for better sleep, great podcast recommendations, and a short poem for Jewish DC!

Shoshanna

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Shoshana: I’m from New York but grew up in NEPA (Northeastern Pennsylvania) and came to DC right after college in 2009. I graduated from Penn State and applied for alternative teaching programs. The first one I got accepted to was in DC teaching science and math in inner city schools. After that, I started teaching at an all-girls Orthodox yeshiva (Jewish educational institution).

Allie: What made you stay here?

Shoshana: If I wanted to go back to school or change jobs – DC was able to offer that. I like that DC is small and easy to navigate. Also, plugging into the Jewish community here seems to be easier than it is in other large cities. You can carve out much more of a community. 

Allie: Tell me about your job and what you do.

Shoshana: I work at the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and help with their online continuing medical education program. All medical professionals have to take courses to keep up their licensure. I describe my job as half curriculum design and half tech.  I also do some IT troubleshooting. All of my years of teaching have been super helpful, and since a lot of education is already very online (especially right now!), I was already managing similar systems in the classroom. This was a natural transition for me. I can do a lot of different things career-wise from here, but think I want to stay in the medical education space. My dad was an adolescent psychiatrist so I know the importance of that role. 

shoshana

Allie: Are there any helpful psychology tips you’ve learned from your job that you can share with us? 

Shoshana: One thing I tell my friends is that your bed should only be associated with sleep. If you are tired, don’t go into your bed and be on your phone. It’s better to relax on a couch, or if you can’t do that – you should change how you sit on your bed. Rearrange the pillows just to create some difference in the way you use it and that should help you sleep better. 

Allie: Walk me through your dream DC day (post pandemic of course).

Shoshana: I wake up not too early (after nine), and ideally it’s a Sunday. I would go for a run through Rock Creek Park, and then go to the Dupont Farmers Market. I would get a bagel with lots of cream cheese from Call Your Mother. In the summer, I like to go to the pool. If I feel like being more social I’ll go to the Banneker pool or if I want something more relaxed I’ll go to the Georgetown pool. Afterwards, I would go to Meridian Hill Park and check out the drum circle. In the evening I would go to The Big Hunt for a comedy show. That bar has the game Big Buck Hunter which I love!

Allie: What do you do to relax?

Shoshana: I really like to exercise. I use ClassPass and try to do workouts to break up my day. I also like to take baths when it’s cold outside. It’s really helpful to listen to podcasts. I especially like film review podcasts like Blank Check, Unspooled, and Nerd Critic.

Allie: Do you have a favorite Jewish Holiday?

Shoshana: I would say Shabbat, because I like that it’s weekly and comes often. I just really like the cathartic end of week feeling that comes with lighting candles, saying the prayers, and having a traditional meal. I don’t fully unplug, but I still try to have a good conversation and make it a special time.

shoshana

Allie: Is there anything people would be surprised to know about you?

Shoshana: If you don’t know me well, you would be surprised to know I love bunny rabbits. I was raised with rabbits as pets. They lived with us like a cat or a dog would, they were litter trained. I have always loved rabbits. I would love to get one, but don’t have any currently. I like that rabbits have been really popular in movie symbolism lately.

Allie: What would you name your rabbits if you got them? 

Shoshana: I love the idea of coordinating names, especially food names like Avocado and Toast.

Allie: What is your favorite kind of rabbit? 

Shoshana: I grew up with floppy eared rabbits or lop rabbits. I follow Flemish Giants on Instagram and they can get up to 20-25 pounds and are supposed to be really smart. Sadly, this breed doesn’t live as long. Something about having an enormous rabbit seems really appealing to me. 

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Shoshana: I wrote a little poem for this! Very few tattoos / some will Booze / many will schmooze / most will share their views / all will be amused.

shoshana and boyfriend

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

DC Passover Guide 2020

passover

Why is this Passover different from all others?

Well, this year, on top of the usual twice-dipped vegetables, matzah overload, maror sandwiches, and cozy cushion-lined chairs, we will probably be saying the Four Questions over Zoom (or FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Skype, you get the idea). This year, we might be cooking our own food, creating our own seder plates, and reading the Haggadah with friends and family virtually. Although the reason for having seder virtually is critical to the health and safety of all of us #stayhome, well, to be honest, it still kind of sucks.

But, let’s not harp on the negative. All of us at GatherDC are here for you in any way we can to help us celebrate Passover with meaning, connection, and delicious food. We will get through this together. We have culled together everything we can think of to help make this year’s Passover as effortless and joyful as possible – and will continue to update it throughout the next few weeks, so check back often.

If you have any questions or additions to this guide, please email allisonf@gatherdc.org or submit your Passover event to our calendar here.

Wishing you a happy, healthy, and meaningful Passover celebration. 

Love, 

The GatherDC Team

P.S. Not sure which of these events is the right fit for you? Want to host your own virtual seder? Check out OneTable or see these helpful FAQs.


Events (Passover: April 8th – April 16th)

Note: All events are virtual unless otherwise specified

Non-Seder Passover Happenings

Seders

Find more virtual seders at onetable.org/passover.

Passover Food

Recipes

Order In 

Seder Supplies

Seder Ideas and Blog Inspirations

Observing Jewish Traditions While Social Distancing

passover

A few days ago my wife and I watched Rabbi Fischel from Washington Hebrew Congregation and her husband Rabbi Abbot livestream lighting candles and saying Shabbat prayers on Instagram Live. This was a bit of a different experience than when we attended the last 2239 Metro Minyan service she led a few weeks ago, or when we were at the GatherDC townhouse a month ago welcoming in Shabbat with a group of Jewish 30-somethings.

One week ago my wife and I lit candles at our home for Shabbat. We don’t do it every week when we’re home and not Shabbat hopping around DC. Although my wife and I lit candles alone in our home, we were joined over FaceTime with my wife’s two sisters and their spouses, plus her parents. We connected from Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, and from our home in the DC suburbs. Thanks Apple.

While on FaceTime, I received a text from Rabbi Aderet Drucker from The Den Collective in Bethesda. The text said:

rabbi aderet

Today a participant of a Taglit-Birthright trip that I staffed in 2011 asked about virtual Shabbat services, so I pointed her to community leaders like Rabbi Shira who hosted a Facebook live “Virtual Shabbat” at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue. I shared this information while watching and listening to a concert from Idan Raichel that was being live streamed from the Jewish Agency for Israel.

While synagogue and JCC doors are closed for the current national emergency, my family, Washington Hebrew Congregation, Sixth & I, The Den Collective, and others are finding new ways to observe our Jewish traditions – whether over video chat from our smartphones or through webcams.  

In a few weeks time, my family and I were planning to get back together – in person – for Passover. We planned to fly. We planned our usual family tradition to have two seders – the first with relatives and the second with family friends. Although those plans have since changed, we will still be together for Passover. But rather than having seder together in person, we will be together over Zoom.

One of my favorite ideals of Judaism is that we often have more questions than answers. And I certainly have questions – like: 

  • “How can we welcome the stranger while closing borders, restricting travel, and practicing social distancing?” 
  • “How can we support those in need, whether local hourly workers who are losing their jobs or having their hours/tips cut back due to the economic ramifications of COVID-19?”

Every generation redefines Judaism through a lens that is meaningful to them. Through the connectedness of news and social media, we, as the next generation of Jewish leaders, can embrace Jewish community virtually when physical brick-and-mortar institutions of Jewish life are locked for the foreseeable future. Jewish educators will continue to find ways to teach us. Our community leaders will find ways to bring us together. We will find ways to connect with family and friends for Passover and other Jewish holiday celebrations. 

Though this year, when the youngest asks, “how is this night different than all other nights?” over FaceTime, Zoom, Facebook live, or the phone – we may have a slightly longer answer.


 

 

jasonAbout the Author: Jason Langsner has been an active lay leader of the Washington Jewish community since moving to the city in 2004, and volunteers for several Jewish organizations including B’nai Brith International. He is a small business owner and formerly served as the head of digital strategy for the oldest Jewish human rights and humanitarian organization in the world. When not blogging, he can often be found walking around his Eastern Market neighborhood, or riding around DC area bike trails.

 

 

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.